Life After A Kidney Transplantation: Now What?
If you've gone through the agony of kidney failure and don't have the capacity to do dialysis, then the only other option is to have a kidney transplant. The process of going through the waiting list, finding a compatible donor, and undergoing a successful surgery can be grueling and take a very long time. But barring those obstacles, if you're one of the lucky 16,000 per year in the US to receive a kidney transplant, there are some things you should know about recovery and your life post-surgery.
Recovery After Kidney Transplantation
Immediately following a kidney transplant, you can expect to be monitored in the hospital for anywhere between 24 hours to a few days, depending on your situation. Doctors will need to ensure that your body doesn't reject the new organ and that you're able to properly produce urine. Beyond that, you can expect to be out of commission during at-home recovery for 5-10 days. Recovery times vary from person-to-person, however it's important to note that your doctor will inform you of all the steps you need to take to make the most efficient recovery -- follow those instructions to a T. You will be able to return to your normal routine after 3-8 weeks.
Adapt and Retain a Healthier Lifestyle
One of the hardest parts of retaining your health after a kidney transplant is avoiding reverting to old habits that may have led to kidney failure in the first place. Changing the way you live is no easy task, but it's necessary if you expect your transplant to increase your lifespan. After all, what good is a brand-new kidney if you're not going to take steps to keep it healthy? Much of maintaining kidney health is connected with maintaining overall health, so you can probably guess what's coming -- that's right, diet and exercise.
Introducing more exercise into your daily routine is an absolute must. Even a 30-minute walk each day goes a long way to your physical and mental health. Refrain from lifting weights until your doctor gives you permission.
Better nutrition will play a larger role in your life from now on, as well. Dialysis carries harsher dietary restrictions than post-transplant life. And since you probably will have experienced dialysis while waiting for a donor, you can easily manage your new dietary requirements. Your diet will also heavily depend on the types of medication prescribed. For instance, while it's important to eat plenty of fruits and veggies each day, your nutritionist may advise you to avoid grapefruit because it can negatively affect certain immunosuppression medications, which are normally prescribed after a kidney transplantation.
Medications for Kidney Disease Transplants
You will need to take medications for the rest of your life, mainly consisting of immunosuppressants. These help the body "accept" the donated organ into the body seamlessly. Every person is different and immunosuppressants help to level the playing field, making the body more receptive to transplanted organs. Now, you may be thinking, "immunosuppressant -- does that mean it suppresses the immune system? Why would I want that?" First off, yes, you're correct. Immunosuppressants are drugs that reduce the strength of your immune system. However, the reason you need them is fascinating: when you receive a transplant, your immune system immediately recognizes the new kidney as a hostile foreign entity and begins to attack it, as it would any other unidentified bacteria or object. Without immunosuppressants, your body's immune system is capable of damaging or destroying the new kidney, bringing you back to square one. This process is called "organ rejection."
Strictly following your medication regimen is crucial to maintaining kidney function, so get to know the names of your meds, the dosage and any other details outlined by your doctor. You will probably have many different meds to take, so don't be shy about calling your doctor to explain the regimen again. Skipping or forgetting a dose should NOT be taken lightly. If you do forget a dose, call your doctor immediately to inform them and ask what steps to take.
What are the Signs of Transplant Rejection?
After the procedure is complete and you're spending time in recovery (and beyond), it's important to keep tabs on your body to ensure proper acceptance of the new kidney. Even if you're properly taking your meds, the body can still reject transplanted organs. Here are the signs of rejection -- if you experience any of these following a transplant, immediately call your doctor:
Don't be alarmed -- organ rejection doesn't mean that you'll lose your kidney. It is often fixed by adjusting the type or dosage of medications. If you do experience rejection, you'll be hospitalized for a few days as doctors try alternative immunosuppressants and monitor your progress.
Despite having its share of potential complications, kidney transplant is the optimal way to cure kidney failure. Patients experience a much higher quality of life than those on dialysis and are able to go on living healthily for the rest of their lives. If you have any questions about kidney failure or feel that you may be at risk, feel free to get in touch with us. We'll be happy to schedule a consultation.